Peter Chapman Poetry

annals of cool


We were in a motel by the highway trying to sleep.  I got up and opened the door. 
Two men and a big dog in the hall, their room door open, short leash straining the dog.
Could they be quiet?  They looked at me silently. The dog looked at me. 
The frozen look happened the perfect instant I opened the door, a soundless cymbal crash. 
They said nothing.  It got good and quiet. 

I thought, such a freaking big dog

My being soft helped me get the silence, is what I told her. 
She said something about the dog.  We'll not know what she thought may also have been cool. 
That's the thing, not those guys.


The long summer has ended.  Cooler weather has come.  Autumn, ahhhhhhhh.  The silvery light begins. 
Air cracks the mind.  Out the windows today the lake murmured its waves, coming in from Canada. 
The sky was more de Kooning, erased like that time by Rauschenberg.  The smooth fall, erased to blue. 


The door-to-door was over, we'd gotten our man in, the new pol.  I should have gone to the party
but I was tired.  In two weeks I'd gone to 700 homes.  Election night was cold and rainy. 
My paperwork was in fucking shreds, I couldn't feel my hands to write.  Doors slammed, dogs snarled.  
I should have said something, but I didn't.  It was cool, me driving off the other way.


On tv the newsman had something on his lips.  Ladybug I said, flicking it off. 
Raising her cocktail Mom sang, Ladybug ladybug fly away home, your house is on fire, your children alone.


Wiping the oils from chicken salad on the back of my hand, I enter a progression of delusions
starting with how the pleasures of such gypsy wiping--the glee!--go to tribal grunting
to assault to death then resurrection.  It's an epiphany of a type I often have, in my nervousness,
my swerving urges to write, to gobble everything, oral until I come out the other side.


I got a haircut then went next door to a vintage shop whose owner was opening up. 
It was around 1:00.  Watch your step she said.  I always do I said.  Oh, you're a stepwatcher, she said.

I tried on a green shirt that was too small.  It needs to be a size bigger I said. 
She said, That's what she said.  So I said, with my orangutang snicker, but she didn't say it to him.

Laughing, we parted.


I was out on my bicyle and turned into the trailer park I'd visited last year.  An old woman asked
if I was looking for someone, did I need help.  I rode over so I could hear her better.  She was sitting
under her patio roof and her cat was rolling in the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day. 
Oh yes, a single fellow bought it.  He took down the ramp.  I could see he'd put some fresh paint on the front. 
She said there were several down the way for sale, open house at one.  She said the sun isn't as hot on her side of the street.
The cat rolled and stretched.  Vultures were soaring overhead, making lazy loops in the great blue sky. 
There must be something over there, I said.  No she said, they're just flying around. Sometimes the currents are good
and you see them flying like this.  As I pedaled away she said quietly, to her old cat:   Free   As   A   Bird.


The seagull and the osprey, both dead, lay in a mute shriek of sudden death in the parking lot at dusk,
odd for the calculation of soundless attacked death, upon death.


I had to go and open the church.  It was pitch dark when I got on my bike and rode over the bridge to the island.
The wind blew hard against me but I got there on time and put the lights on.  The church is never locked, you can always pray.
It's a timbered soft green upside-down ark.  The only light is behind the cross then I turn up the lights in the nave. 
Until the altar guild lady comes and does the silver I'm the only one there. 

In the black sky was a half moon.  The hawks drop down where the bridge is highest, no wing beats, turning their heads,
scanning the water, my bike, damp clothes, the moon the cross the woman's quiet, the love = pure loss.